Sixteen years ago, hidden away at the University of Notre Dame, Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen started a bond and a brain child that would forever change how college football is played.
The philosophy was simple, yet complex when you talk about football scheming and approach.
In laymen’s terms you take an old style, smash mouth approach and combine that with the glitz of the shotgun and multiple wide receivers and you have the base of what is now called the spread offense.
Today the spread comes in all forms, shapes and sizes, and to the common fan, the spread is simply teams in the shotgun, running plays at a rapid pace.
But, for Meyer and Mullen – their approach has always been the same, dating back to their days at Bowling Green together.
You simply combine complex passing schemes with an option type running game, wrap a big dual threat quarterback around it, play good defense and you have a recipe for success.
After last night’s 42-20 thrashing of Oregon in the National Championship game, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes not only asserted themselves as the best team in the country, they also validated again that the Meyer – Mullen approach to football works and you can take solace in that as a Bulldog fan.
This may surprise some that Meyer rose from the ashes so quickly, but I actually saw this coming back in 2012.
Dating back to their Tim Tebow days together, Meyer and Mullen have both come under fire by fans and media at times, stating their system just “doesn’t work” or how can you expect to win, when you run a quarterback so much.
Prior to this season, down in Starkville people said there was no way Mullen could win with Dak Prescott because he was basically a running back.
The Bulldogs went on to win 10-games and was ranked number-one in the country for five straight weeks with this approach.
Then just last night, there was big 6-5 250lb Cardale Jones, a third string quarterback who was called upon by necessity at the end of this year to lead the Buckeyes. Jones played flawlessly down the stretch, capping off the title game with 21-carries for a modest 38-yards rushing and a touchdown. He was also effective enough with 242-yards through the air.
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones (12) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Oregon Ducks in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The star for the Buckeyes was running back Ezekiel Elliot with 246-yards on the ground, but this system always starts at the quarterback position.
From Tebow to Newton to Relf to Braxton Miller to Prescott and beyond the formula starts with a big, physical dual threat quarterback.
While watching the championship game I was just amazed at how similar Ohio State‘s offensive play calling resembled what the Bulldogs did in 2014. Yes, there were variations between the two, but the interlinings were the same.
Much like Prescott’s ability to run and throw sparked a year offensively for Mississippi State, Jone’s ability to do the same, sparked the Buckeyes to a national championship.
For as much slack as people give Dan Mullen for his offensive approach – it’s that same approach that won the Bulldogs ten games in 2014 and made them one of the best offenses in the SEC.
It’s also the same approach that won Ohio State a National Title just last night.
Scour the Buckeyes roster for quarterbacks, and then do the same for the Bulldogs and the results are striking and similar – 6-2 or taller 215 lbs or bigger, just fast enough to make a play and just big enough to run you over for that extra yardage.
The reason is simple from a philosophy stand point. A big dual threat quarterback gives you that extra weapon in the backfield and when you wrap other weapons around him, he becomes the queen on the chess board.
Often unaccounted for, yet sometimes over compensated for – the Meyer – Mullen approach at quarterback makes an entire offense that much better.
The common fan gripes that the quarterback in this system runs too much, but when you break it down, even when a quarterback is held in check in a ball game in this system, over time, their ability to run allows other things to open up offensively.
Back in Starkville, while Mullen just finished year six of his campaign as the Bulldogs head man, you can really only point to two years where he totally was able to commit to this philosophy – 2010 and 2014.
In 2010 he committed solely to Chris Relf and won 9-ball games and a Gator Bowl, while this year with Prescott he won 10 and appeared in the Orange Bowl.
So it’s no coincidence that his two best years in Starkville was years he totally committed to his and Meyers approach at the quarterback position.
What’s even more amazing about this approach is you typically don’t have to have a five-star quarterback. Jones was a three-star recruit that the Buckeyes got in on early.
Chris Relf was a two-star and Prescott was a three-star as well.
Relf’s ability helped the Bulldogs to 9-wins and a Gator Bowl victory in 2010. Courtesy of Zimbio.com
The Bulldogs have since then loaded the roster with three-star guys that are all built from the same mold and it’s evident that as long as Mullen is in Starkville, he has fully committed to playing his and Meyer’s style of football moving forward and why not?
Ohio State just won another National Title doing the same thing the Bulldogs do and it’s no coincidence. This is a proven philosophy that works and has worked since 2001.
I can almost bet you Dan Mullen was smiling big for his old boss last night as he hoisted the National Title trophy because Mullen knows the system he helped build works, he knows that system is a key reason he has been so successful in Starkville and that system and philosophy is the reason he will continue to prove people wrong and keep the Bulldogs winning in the Southeastern Conference.